On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com


I’m so glad to see another view of Colorado. One note based on my 9 years living in a rural/small town community: there is a whole culture of Chautauqua presenters who learn to imitate famous historical Americans. They present their craft in many contexts; most of the ones I enjoyed were as part of county or state Democratic Party dinners, often they portrayed FDR or Lincoln.

It’s a very neat, all-American tradition that still lives in small towns across the US, most definitely in Colorado. Should you have the chance to experience it, I highly recommend. Even in such a simple context as a dinner with “rubber chicken”, performers are hired who spend countless hours learning the words, thoughts, deeds, and mannerisms of our history. It’s not the Grand Opera, but it’s impressive nonetheless and such commitment to living history and education is to be commended.

I apologize in advance if this is a “duh” observation for all of you; growing up in Washington DC with a Swiss father and an American mother who grew up in Colombia, I didn’t have the exposure to “normal” American/small town life and traditions, so when I discover things that I appreciate, I tend to share my discovery as if no one else has ever heard of it. Mea culpa.


Have a wonderful day and enjoy the pictures!

Today, pictures from valued commenter StringOnAStick.

We have been buying grass fed meats from a local farm to table co-op of 23 ranchers, and the guy in charge told me last year he was converting the barn at his ranch into an event space for dinners with living history presentations, for weddings, family reunions, etc. Two weeks ago we went to the inaugural event and it was a great experience, including being able to feed alfalfa sticks to the friendlier bison. The location is quite a bit east of the urban areas of Colorado’s Front Range region, but it is up high on the plains and has fabulous views of both Pikes Peak and Longs Peak, so “Bella Vista” indeed. We had a night of wild thunderstorms too, which precluding presenting the Teddy Roosevelt portion of the show outside by his period authentic tent and campaign table, but inside was just fine too.

The night’s entertainment included a group of 3 Native American dancers, who also told the history of the Bison from their point of view. It is estimated that at one point there were 60 million Bison in North America, and within 20 years of intense slaughter made easy by railroads providing easy access and firearms improvements, the total was down to maybe 300. The lead dancer told the story of a Blackfoot tribe member who rescued 11 babies still at the side of their slaughtered and skinned mothers; he got them up to their reservation on the Canada – US border and they set about restoring their numbers.

The other entertainment was a man (a high school history teacher, who I bet is incredible to have as your teacher!) doing a living history presentation as Teddy Roosevelt, again explaining how we nearly completely lost the North American Bison, including his story of hunting a bison over many days who then charged him and gave him a nasty forehead gash from his rifle as it got away. TR also rescued some baby Bison and took them back to NYC (the Bronx zoo) to try to increase their numbers in a place of safety (the original conservationists were usually hunters as well). All currently existing Bison are descended from the Bronx zoo herd, the Blackfoot tribe’s herd, and the few that remained in the wild. It took a poacher slaughtering 12 stuck in the snow at Yellowstone National Park plus the photos and stories in many newspapers for our citizens to demand their Congressmen make hunting inside the National Parks illegal. These huge and amazing animals are what should replace cattle in so much of the High Plains, they are hardier animals who can withstand horrible weather and this is where they beloong!

Taken on 2019-05-26 00:00:00

Bella Vista Bison Ranch, Elbert, CO

The barn interior was done entirely in re-purposed materials, corrugated tin siding, barn wood wagon wheel chandeliers, rough sawn oak flooring from a barn being torn down in OK. I never would have thought of tin as a wall treatment but it is gorgeous inside. The clouds eventually turned into a raging rain and pea sized hail storm, a bit loud inside because of the tin roof even with the interior insulation under the roof.

Taken on 2019-05-26 00:00:00

Bella Vista Bison Ranch, Elbert, CO

I know barn style sliding doors are all the decorative rage these days, but these interior sliding doors were made using the exterior sliding door hardware from the original structure. Once the buffet tables were cleared, the open floor space was used by both the Native American dancers and the actor portraying Teddy Roosevelt.

Taken on 2019-05-26 00:00:00

Bella Vista Bison Ranch, Elbert, CO

The evening began with a dance and blessing by a group of 3 Native American dancers. Later the leader would present the Native American history of the North American Bison.

Taken on 2019-05-26 00:00:00

Bella Vista Bison Ranch, Elbert, CO

This fellow portrayed Teddy Roosevelt extremely well, and has obviously studied all the existing film of TR plus his writings and voice recordings. The little kids in the audience found him fascinating, and we learned a lot we didn’t know about TR’s involvement in the recovery of the Bison in North America.

Taken on 2019-05-26 00:00:00

Bella Vista Bison Ranch, Elbert, CO

There were a few of the herd that are OK with humans as long as they have alfalfa sticks to feed them. Note the black, pointed tongue, perfectly evolved for eating rough native grasses. One of the group was pretty good at bullying the other Bison out of the way so she could score as many treats as possible. The bull for this herd was kept in a more distant pen since he’s known to be a bit, ah, less friendly than all the heifers. There was one lone very young baby and all the heifers made sure it never got close to where the humans were.


Thank you so much StringOnAStick, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

14 replies
  1. 1
    p.a. says:

    Wow! With those sky shots, I can almost smell the rain coming on.

    Alain, this ‘proper’-coaster American knew the word Chautauqua, but had no idea what it was about. Thought it was like the Elks, or the Grange.

  2. 2
    WereBear says:


    He looks like a premier Teddy impersonator. We get Joe Wiegand locally every fall, making the rounds since he’s a huge part of Newcomb’s TR Weekend.

    New blog look?

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    What fun. I’ll have to try bison sometime since it’s suppose to be healthier for you.

  4. 4
    p.a. says:

    @JPL: It’s even available frozen ground in megamarts (h/t Alton Brown) now.

  5. 5
    arrieve says:

    That looks like so much fun! Thanks for sharing.

  6. 6
    Miki says:

    Bella Vista, indeed. Sounds like it was a very nice evening, even with the impending storms.

    Rochester, MN (Home of the original Mayo Clinic), had a bit of a brush with an escaped Bison last week. Sadly, the owner requested it be euthanized once caught (the bison, not the owner).

    Thanks for the photos and story – nice way to start the day!

  7. 7
    Wag says:

    thanks for sharing! Amazing clouds in the outdoor photos.

  8. 8
    Miss Bianca says:

    Sweet! Your TR looks a lot more like the real thing than the guy who came to our Memorial Day parade for the inauguration of our little train station museum! (hint: he was quite portly! But still a dashing figure in morning suit and high silk hat!)

  9. 9

    Great post and photos!

  10. 10

    @JPL: Bison is actually very good – but it has almost no fat, so cooking it requires extra steps.

  11. 11
    suezboo says:

    That was very interesting – a sidelight into history with good pix to match. I enjoyed it. Good luck to the bison and those who take care of them.

  12. 12
    TomatoQueen says:

    According to an episode on Animal Planet’s “The Zoo”, The Bronx Zoo, as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, has continued to participate in preserving the American bison with a breeding program. Numbers small but growing.

  13. 13
    Jay Noble says:

    Well, now I have to put a plug up for my hometown’s Gold Rush Days this weekend.

    Sidney Gold Rush Days is a family-oriented outdoor festival. It is held in Legion Park, Sidney, Nebraska, during the second week-end of June. The festival emphasizes the history of the Sidney to Deadwood Gold Rush Trail in the late 1870’s. Lots of activities are provided for children. Activities include free entertainment (Lotsa folk music!), quick draw competitions, wagon rides, hand-on gold panning demonstrations, and much more. Numerous craftsmen demonstrate blacksmithing, weaving, spinning, woodworking, leather tanning, and more.

  14. 14
    StringOnAStick says:

    We’re out of town on vacation and I just got a chance to look at BJ; thanks for running the photos and everyone’s nice comments. I should have some for central Oregon to post next week

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